Utility outages: Are you looking at the big picture?

October 2019 Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection


Nadia Veeran-Patel

“The recent cyberattack on City of Johannesburg (CoJ) systems should be ringing alarm bells in every boardroom. It was a vivid demonstration of the fact that cyber-risk threatens other important systems, like power,” she warns. “We have to start thinking about, and laying plans for, the real possibility that the whole grid is somehow compromised. Load-shedding is a controlled process, this is something quite different, and the consequences are unpredictable at best.”

The CoJ cyberattack meant that prepaid users could not purchase power, but its impact was limited to the financial systems. But what if the hackers had targeted the operational systems that control the grid, and showed their control by shutting it down? This is no fantasy: in September this year, hackers seem to have penetrated the US power grid. There was no blackout, but given the extent to which Russian hackers are probing the US power grid, and the growing emphasis on cyber-terrorism and warfare, it could happen anytime. Security experts warn that power grids are seen as a prime target for hackers.

Another important consideration is that while the US grid may prove to be a hard nut to crack, the fact that CoJ was also hacked in July this year implies that the utility does not take cybersecurity too seriously.

In addition, considering the state of Eskom’s network, if the economy does begin growing again, we will again face the spectre of the grid collapsing if anything goes wrong with the management of the load-shedding schedule.

“Companies should assess the risk of more prolonged and pervasive power blackouts, and what their response should be,” Veeran-Patel believes. “The infamous New York blackouts in 1977 and again in 2019, as well as the repeated blackouts in Venezuela, led to outbreaks of looting and the spectre of civic collapse,” she says. “A long blackout over a wide area will almost certainly result in unrest of some kind. The question is whether your organisation has prepared a plan to deal with this eventuality, and assessed the likelihood of it happening.”

Of course, this assessment would include internal plans for dealing with an extended power outage—extra generators, bigger fuel storage facilities and so on—but it also needs to take into account the state’s emergency response plans. As Veeran-Patel points out, we know they exist but how, exactly, do we rate their efficacy?

It will also be necessary to look at the impact on the organisation, paying particular attention to the domino effect: business partners, suppliers and customers will also be affected. So, too, will other utilities on which everybody depends, most notably water. No power means that reservoirs will run dry, as has already happened.

“As the Internet of Things takes off, not just power grids will get smarter, so will the water and transport grids. Greater use of IT will mean artificial intelligence can be deployed to make management of these resources more effective, but ironically will also make them more vulnerable to cyber criminals, especially as the proliferating number of sensors are unlikely to be well protected,” she concludes. “Just how resilient is your organisation, really?”

For more information contact ContinuitySA, +27 11 554 8050, cindy.bodenstein@continuitysa.co.za, www.continuitysa.co.za




Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page



Further reading:

Securing perimeters of secure locations
November 2019, Axis Communications SA, Modular Communications, Hikvision South Africa, Nemtek Electric Fencing Products, Technews Publishing, Stafix , Government and Parastatal (Industry), Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection, Integrated Solutions
Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked a number of companies offering perimeter security solutions for their insights into protecting the boundaries of national key points.

Read more...
Perimeter protection in Ghana
October 2019, AcoustAlert , Mining (Industry), Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection
A gold mine in Ghana has erected a dual fence with AcoustAlert PIDS fence detection on both inner and outer fence lines.

Read more...
A committed service provider
October 2019, Elf Rentals - Electronic Security Solutions , Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection, Residential Estate (Industry)
The theme Elf promoted through its sponsorship was that it offers clients its own financial commitment and willingness to accept the risk of equipment failure.

Read more...
Thermal cameras with artificial intelligence
October 2019, Dahua Technology South Africa , Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection, CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring, Residential Estate (Industry)
Dahua Technology showcased solutions that are important to residential estates, namely perimeter protection.

Read more...
Securing estate perimeters
October 2019, Nemtek Electric Fencing Products , Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection, Residential Estate (Industry)
Nemtek has a range of products designed to secure the perimeters of estates, however its display at the conference focused on its Network Energizer and its Dual-Action Tension Sensor.

Read more...
Using home security to provide home automation
October 2019, TPA Security Distributors , Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection, Products
Making outdoor intrusion detection sensors an integral part of the security/home automation system is a reality with Texecom Connect and Ricochet technology.

Read more...
Not just intruder detection systems
October 2019, Elvey Security Technologies , Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection, Products
The market is clamouring for the integration of traditional intruder detection systems with home automation, surveillance and access control solutions.

Read more...
Perimeter security in high EMF environments
October 2019, AcoustAlert , Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection
Testing AcoustAlert PIDS on extra high tension sites like power stations and power generating gas turbine plants.

Read more...
Intelligent intruder detection
October 2019, Secutel Technologies , Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection, Products
Imagine a system that integrates all your security and business systems and can interpret people, actions and events, and help you and your employees to become more efficient.

Read more...
AI is transforming the security industry
September 2019, Fidelity ADT , Home Security, Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection
Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer a futuristic, fictional concept. The truth is we are living the future now.

Read more...